Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Kids

The Grand Traverse Bay YMCA in Traverse City has been open at their new location for several months and they brought several of their popular programs to the new space when they moved, including the Youth WOW program. The program was established in 2009 and focuses on weight management and healthy lifestyles for youth in grades 9—12. At the end of the program all of the participants have improved their fitness abilities.

Diane Roach, an RD (registered dietitian) Nutritionist at Munson Medical Center has worked with overweight youth for 30 years and she acts as the Nutritionist for the program. MyNorth’s Eliza Foster checked in with Diane about the WOW program and got some healthy snack ideas for kids as well as tips for maintaining year-round healthy lifestyles.

What is the Youth WOW program?

It’s an 8 week program to help overweight teens add exercise and improve their nutrition. They meet as a group twice each week at the new YMCA to exercise with a wonderful Certified Fitness Trainer. They are encouraged to go to the YMCA to be active at least one other day each week on their own. They participate in two group nutrition sessions that promote healthy eating and explore proven ways to make changes.

What is your role in the program?

As an RD Nutritionist, I provide concrete guidance toward healthier eating, such as promoting fruits and vegetables and fiber, healthy meal and snack ideas, drink choices, tips to manage emotional eating, how to moderate junk food, dining out and tuning in to fullness. Oryana provides wholesome foods to sample! Individualized nutrition sessions can be added for an extra fee.

Has it been successful so far?

Yes. Most of the regular participants report their clothing gets looser (they lose inches) and report definite improvements in their food and drink choices.

As far as keeping kids healthy in the winter… it can be particularly difficult to get your kids outside and exercising. What are some nutritional tips that you have for keeping kids healthy in the winter time?

Find some fun “bad weather” activity options like Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Fit, a kick boxing DVD, a walk at home DVD and some winter activities like sledding, ice skating, snow shoeing, making snow trails to walk the dog, indoor balloon volleyball and shoveling. Setting a goal of 30-60 minutes most days of the week is recommended.

For winter nutrition, keep fruits and vegetables at the meals and snacks. Watch for what’s on sale each week. You can slice apples sprinkle them with cinnamon and they can be covered and heated in the microwave, popcorn kernels in a clean brown sandwich bag can be microwaved and sprayed with low fat butter spray, you can use half whole wheat flour and less sugar to make pumpkin muffins or banana bread, add more vegetables (mushrooms, zucchini, shredded carrots) to pasta sauce, increase the vegetables in soups, cook oatmeal with cinnamon, fruit and milk in it, serve orange slices or clementines for breakfast, choose thin crust vegetable pizza and serve it with fresh fruit, make kale chips or serve light hummus with vegetables.

Can you suggest a few snack ideas that are healthy and kid friendly?

See above, but for summertime: freeze grapes, blueberries, peeled orange sections or ripe bananas (peeled).

Is there a particular food that kids should eat more of?

2-3 cups daily of non-starchy vegetables, 1-3 fruits daily, whole grains instead of white flour items and drink 6 cups water.

What advice can you give parents to help maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle for their kids?

Parents can make a huge difference by buying healthier foods, structuring 3 meals and planned snacks and listening and providing positive words to support their teen. They can become role models for good nutrition habits and regular physical activity.

Any additional tips & tricks or advice you would like to share?

Learning to honor and care for our bodies is a lifelong process. It is very rewarding to see teens realize they have the power to change. Sometimes people need the support of a Behavioral Health professional to help them through tough times. We have seen that when depression or family addictions are part of the story.

Registration for the next Youth WOW Workshop will begin on April 1, 2015. To register or learn more about the program call the YMCA at 231.486.6357 or check their website.

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